Jaime Torres Credits “The Coach” for Rise in Jockey Ranks

Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas has always had a sharp eye for racehorses – four Kentucky Derby winners, seven Preakness winners, and four Belmont Stakes winners.

He’s also mentored some of the best trainers in the business – fellow Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher, Kiaran McLaughlin, George Weaver, and Dallas Stewart, to name a few.

Jaime Torres. Coglianese Photo

After riding Seize the Grey to Preakness win, Belmont Stakes up next

Currently, the 88-year-old Lukas, aka “The Coach,” is showing his talent for spotting promising young jockeys and giving them a shot in big-time races.

It’s working: Jaime Torres is Lukas’ latest young rider in the spotlight.

In just his third year as a jockey, the 25-year-old guided longshot Seize the Grey to victory in the Preakness and gave Lukas his 15th win in a Triple Crown race – second all-time.

“It’s also special that I was able to tap into this young man here,’’ Lukas said after the Preakness with Torres by his side. “He’s responded absolutely beautiful.”

From Gulfstream to Glory: Torres and Asmussen Jr. Excel Under Lukas’ Guidance

Lukas said Torres rode a few “general” horses for him at Churchill Downs and “thought he had a lot of talent. And I loved working with him, but I really feel good about taking him to this level.”

He’s also assisted in the rise of Keith Asmussen, Jr., the son of Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen. The 25-year-old rider in his third year won his first graded stakes aboard Lukas-trained Lemon Muffin in the Honeybee (G3) in February. He also was the regular rider for Lukas-trained Just Steel, who ran second in the Arkansas Derby and gave young Asmussen his first Derby starter.

Torres, who didn’t see a horse race until 2019, is from Puerto Rico; he started riding at Gulfstream Park, then moved to New York to compete against the top jockey colony in the country.

Torres has ridden Seize the Grey in three of his four wins from 10 starts. He was aboard for the colt’s first win, at Saratoga on July 29, then guided Seize the Grey to victory in the Pat Day Mile on Derby Day.

Torres Ready for Belmont Stakes at Saratoga

Next up is the Belmont Stakes, the final leg of the Triple Crown on June 8 being run at Saratoga Race Course for the first time, the iconic track Torres hopes to be successful out during the summer meet.

“It means a lot. From the beginning, Wayne has been giving me a lot of opportunities, and I appreciate that,” said Torres. “It’s not just me – Keith Asmussen and other apprentices, too. Wayne means a lot and is very important to us. We just need someone to give us the opportunity, and he did.”

At last year’s Spa meet, then-apprentice Torres was chosen by Lukas to ride Seize the Grey in a July maiden. He pulled off an upset in the 6 ½-furlongs. He returned to win the Pat Day Mile with Seize the Grey at Churchill Downs on Derby Day, a few races before Mystik Dan won the Kentucky Derby. It was the first graded stakes win for Torres and Seize the Grey.

“I never thought this would happen,” Torres said. “As soon as this race (the Preakness) was coming closer, I was confident with him. Every race, he was getting better and better. I remember after the Pat Day Mile in the winner’s circle, Wayne said, ‘We are going to the Preakness.’ I said, ‘No way! I’m ready!’”

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